About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

October 21, 2016

Don't sh*t where you live

The Villiage Voice reports on how, after much effort, a guy got data on where NYPD officers live (the zip codes). There's nothing too surprising here, but it is worth noting 1) the NYPD was reluctant to give it up, and 2) NYPD officers are forbidden to work in the precinct in which they live. This goes back to anti-corruption efforts, and it is at odds with community policing. (Not that many cops want to live where they work, but that's another matter.)

58 percent of cops live in the city, but just 45 percent of white compared with three-quarters of black and hispanic cops.

Just under 30 cops live in my zip code in Queens. 114 cops live in 10940, Middletown, NY. That's 70 miles to the city limits and a 2-hour drive to 1PP, police headquarters. Suffolk County to Western Queens can take just as long. A few cops live even further away. I don't think that's a healthy commute, especially for a job that requires flexibility and going to court. But what do I know?


Ryanaldo said...

Cleveland had a rule until recently that police and firemen must live in Cleveland. The joke became that safety officers do not want to live in districts where they are in charge of safety. There is much bitterness there, and I can only make sense of it in the bleak terms of James Howard Kunstler and Dmitry Orlov.

Moskos said...

I understand why cops don't want to live where they work. But I want officers to at least *have lived* in the city where they work. And as a taxpayer, I want all city employees to live in the city, and spend their money in the city.

A residency requirement does make it harder to recruit cops, of course. So there are tradeoffs. And cops who live where they work can take things more personally and be more brutal.

Unknown said...

I used to have a 60 mile (one way) commute to work. I ended up sleeping at the station most days.

By switching to a closer department I save 12 hours a week not commuting and approximately $5 k a year in maintenance/ gas. I do feel more invested in the community and appreciate the saved time and money for the rest of my life. Granted I still don't live in the same city that I work, but at least it's closer!

Unknown said...

When it comes to police reform, the residency question has always been a non-starter for me. If you recruit the right people and train them well, it should not matter where they come from. Nobody is checking the demograpics of doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins or Shock Trauma and they are serving the citizens of Baltimore quite nicely.
If you want your cops to live in the city they police, give them a better city. Cops are no different than any other middle class worker. Give them a city with good public schools to send their kids and reasonable housing costs and they will live there. Baltimore has neither, so the cops live in the county.
Here's a bit of a thought experiment: Imagine if the Village Voice ran an article about a black man from the inner city who applied to a rural police department. Would there be outrage if said rural police department denied this black man a job just because he "hadn't lived in the trailer park"?

Ryanaldo said...

I think the problem is characterizing police work as producing "shit".
That is a negative mindset.

Moskos said...

No. I think the shit refers to things you might do or might happen off duty.

Unknown said...


The other night I had a civilian ride-a-long who on the paperwork listed her reason for the request as "social justice equity questions". I faced several difficult questions during that shift which I answered with varying degrees of effectiveness. At one point she asked me, "How do you deal with so many people hating you so much?" I put off answering the question for a bit until I could come up with the right words. Eventually I explained to her that as a police officer I can be legally and morally justified in my actions and still make a someone legitimately justified in hating me, (Thus producing shit) and that's why cops don't really give two shits about criticism from non-cops.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter, how have you been? Was just chatting with P. Manning about some of this and were discussing the recent Bridgeport social experiment they were doing with hiring - have you seen this?

I agree that it matters less that officers are from their cities, but that they are culturally competent to the population they serve.

Syebe said...

I've been a municipal employee several places (not a cop - public works) and seen two approaches to residency policies: either none at all, or "encouraged for everyone but required for senior personnel". Both cases it was one rule for all city departments.

Moskos said...

Thanks for that link, David. I had not seen that.

The jury is still out on the usefulness/benefit of residency requirements for cops. And one may actually see corruption and brutality *increase* with more local residents. And of course standards will have to be lowered. But I'm suspicious of the standards that exist. I don't see a problem with boosting a score on a civil-service exam that has next-to-nothing to do with being a good cop, anyway.

Mostly I'm pro-residency requirements on the grounds that it's good for a poor city to keep its tax base in the city. So yes, not just for cops but for all public employees. Any gain in "culturally competent" (I like that term) police officers is a plus. But "cultural competency," the economics of the tax base, and the lowering of standards are all factors that need to be taken into account. How much you want to weigh each factor is where the rubber hits the road.

And it's not like such competency can't be learned on the job. I'd take a clueless but eager-to-learn smart kid from the burbs over a "culturally competent" idiot from the city any day. But other things being equal (which they're often not) why not hire locally?

Tombstone courage said...

We have residency for police and fire in Chicago. The reason, in the post ww2 period, the city wanted residency so first responders could be raised like minutemen in case of social needs, typically warfare, missles, cold war fears. It had nothing to do with taxes, it was all a bout response. Yet, ask police union officials, politicians, you hear gobbledegook. It is actually a violation of your rights to dictate where you live. The suckups we have running the city here tell recruits, "Chicago is big and diverse! You can find a neighborhood you like here!"

Moskos said...

Interesting as to the origin. I did not know that. But a violation of rights?! Come on, now. (And there's always Jefferson Park.)

Tombstone courage said...

Doesn't life, liberty and happiness involve living where you want to? That is what I was saying? My ex wife left me in Ukrainian Village, took the kid and moved to naperville.
I worked and lived in the same district for a while and hated it. I was too damn visible when I was off duty.in restaurants, stores, parks, people would bring their problems to me and expect quasi police service. Can t tell them to dial 911 .

Moskos said...

The courts have said you do have the right to live where you want. But also that you do not have a right to a municipal job. Your choice. One case is McCarthy v. Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, 424 US 645 (1976). Court also says cities can impose a maximum community time requirement as well as or instead of a residency requirement.

The FOP, by the way, offers this helpful hint: "It is not wise for a police officer to say 'I want to move out of Mytown because of the high crime rate.'"


Mike said...

Cops Care!


Tombstone courage said...

Peter, are you related to Dr. Charles Moskos, who taught at Northwestern University some years Back?